O. V. Smirnova
Center for Ecological Problems and Forest Bioproductivity
An extensive pattern of forest use exists in Russia dating back to the 1930s. It is characterized by exploiting more and more ancient forests instead of intensive forestry in developed regions. The best wood according to quality, supply, and accessibility is taken in the first cutting, with an absence of efficient reforestation. As a result, timber resources are disappearing quickly. Deforestation of the remaining ancient forestlands is inevitable. For example, only 6 percent of the taiga zone in European Russia has natural forests. Greenpeace of Russia made a map, “Last Remaining Forestlands of the European Taiga,” based on space imagery and special nature studies.
Most of the forestlands may be destroyed in five to ten years. Gas and oil producing industries, gold mining, and other extractive industries are also responsible for deforestation. Enterprises and exploration activities of these industries are the main causes of fires. Forestland destroyed by fire is comparable with that destroyed as a result of felling.
The present pattern leads to the total destruction of natural forest ecological systems in a great part of the forest zone of Russia as well as to depletion of timber resources. It causes an avalanche of social problems. In the 1970s, the timber industry decline began in most taiga regions. It became especially evident in the end of the 1980s and in the 1990s. The main reason for the decrease is the depletion of woods in the vicinity of enterprises founded in the 1940s, 1950s, and earlier. Since the beginning of the 1990s, about one million employees here lost their jobs in the timber industry or will soon be unemployed. Several
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop ROLE OF GREENPEACE OF RUSSIA AND OTHER PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS IN THE CONSERVATION OF RUSSIAN FORESTS O. V. Smirnova Center for Ecological Problems and Forest Bioproductivity EVOLUTION OF ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS An extensive pattern of forest use exists in Russia dating back to the 1930s. It is characterized by exploiting more and more ancient forests instead of intensive forestry in developed regions. The best wood according to quality, supply, and accessibility is taken in the first cutting, with an absence of efficient reforestation. As a result, timber resources are disappearing quickly. Deforestation of the remaining ancient forestlands is inevitable. For example, only 6 percent of the taiga zone in European Russia has natural forests. Greenpeace of Russia made a map, “Last Remaining Forestlands of the European Taiga,” based on space imagery and special nature studies. Most of the forestlands may be destroyed in five to ten years. Gas and oil producing industries, gold mining, and other extractive industries are also responsible for deforestation. Enterprises and exploration activities of these industries are the main causes of fires. Forestland destroyed by fire is comparable with that destroyed as a result of felling. The present pattern leads to the total destruction of natural forest ecological systems in a great part of the forest zone of Russia as well as to depletion of timber resources. It causes an avalanche of social problems. In the 1970s, the timber industry decline began in most taiga regions. It became especially evident in the end of the 1980s and in the 1990s. The main reason for the decrease is the depletion of woods in the vicinity of enterprises founded in the 1940s, 1950s, and earlier. Since the beginning of the 1990s, about one million employees here lost their jobs in the timber industry or will soon be unemployed. Several
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop thousand “wood settlements” mainly in remote districts of the European North, Siberia, and Far East with four million residents are left without a livelihood. The pattern of depletion is stimulated by extremely low payments for forest exploration rights (forest tax). For example, standing wood has a token price of not more than one dollar for one cubic meter. That is about 2 to 5 percent of the commercial value of round lumber. As a result, the State has a lack of money for an efficient forest service. In 1999 the payment for forest exploration rights was about 15 percent of the total costs of the Federal Service of Forestry. The present pattern of forestry leads both to the total destruction of the last remaining ancient forests and to ecological disturbance of the forest zone (water balance, swamping, soil decay, biodiversity decrease). The whole state timber industry is unprofitable. Also, life in timber settlements is socially unstable due to a decrease of earnings and unemployment. THE IMPACT OF GOVERNMENT DECREES For the last decade, no government decrees for radical change of the situation and for stable forest exploitation have been adopted. The Forest Code of the Russian Federation requires timber owners to carry on multiple-purpose and sustainable forestry while promoting biological diversity. This requirement is not fulfilled because of the absence of appropriate laws. Even the existing nature protection legislation on forestry and forest exploration is not observed. For example, the Law “On Ecological Assessment” adopted in 1995 requires an ecological assessment of “schemes of protection and use of water, forest, land, and other nature resources,” including organization and management projects for forestry and felling. Nevertheless, most projects are realized without any ecological assessment. Conservation of species under special protection is usually not addressed because these species are not identified within the scope of forest husbandry and planning. Forest husbandry, the base for forestry planning and management, is aimed entirely at accounting for timber resources. “The Principles of Determination of Woodcutting Areas…” adopted in 1987 are still in force. They provide “a level of major harvest and regeneration felling for 20 to 30 years.” Economically inaccessible woods are included into production reserves. As a result, forests located near roads in populated regions are subject to more intense cutting. The full use of woodcutting areas is impossible in the majority of regions due to a lack of economically accessible forest resources. Enterprises often try to solve this problem by disregarding ecological limits including those provided by legislation. “Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Management of Russian Forests” adopted in 1998 does not have parameters of sustainable forest management and does not provide for any change in the present forest management system.
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Moreover, the majority of forestry employees know nothing about this document. The general type of felling is final harvesting on a large area (up to 50 hectares). This causes heavy soil erosion, swamping, and catastrophic changes of the forest environment, with an absence of reforestation and disappearance of many species of forest flora and fauna. The current Forest Legislation disregards international conventions for biodiversity conservation and does not include up-to-date scientific achievements for sustainable forest husbandry. ROLE OF NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS A number of public organizations are involved in forest conservation. The most active ones have joined the Forest Club of Russian NGOs. It is an informal working group consisting of representatives of NGOs. Forest Club members are: Greenpeace Russia Socio-Ecological Union Forest Campaign Conservation Center for Wild Resources Druzhinas (Student Corps) for Nature Conservation Movement Information Center of Taiga Rescue Network-Russia Save Pechora Committee Individual activists The main task of the Forest Club is to coordinate NGOs for forest conservation. The Club’s major activities are: Improvement of Russian forest legislation, forestry regulations, and technical standards Inventory of natural old growth forests and other valuable forest areas Monitoring of protected territories for illegal logging and poaching Promotion of ecologically and socially responsible forestry and independent forest certification Publication of the Forest Bulletin The current state forest management system does not ensure participation of NGOs in forest management and development of forest policy. The overwhelming majority of Forest Service employees regard NGOs as hostile entities that should not interfere in forest affairs. Usually, the state bodies do not consider suggestions of residents and NGOs on changing felling practices, excluding some sites from exploitation, or changing the management system.
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Consideration of public suggestions is not provided in the current forest legislation. Standard acts and forest legislation are usually developed in secret, excluding not only the general public, but also specialists outside the Forest Service. The scientific and nature protection communities learn about a certain bill or project when it is introduced to the State Duma, registered at the Ministry of Justice, or confirmed with a department decree. As a rule, it is almost impossible to introduce any changes into the document at this stage. In those isolated instances when a project was open for discussion, specialist opinions outside the Forest Service were not taken into account. Since 1993, no representative from scientific or public organizations outside the Forest Service and other ministries and departments has managed to include any innovations in the documents. Efficient collaboration between the government and the public at the federal level is almost impossible. The only effective participation of the general public is open protest against certain state activities and projects. RESULTS OF ACTIVITIES OF NONGOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS NGO activities are diverse. The Forest Club has the following activities: Improvement of Russian forest legislation; promotion of ecologically and socially responsible forestry; and independent forest certification. Detailed analysis of illegal felling shows the weakness of the current Forest Code, with 20 percent of timber being felled illegally. Greenpeace proposed a forest program of sustainable forest management that would provide timber settlements with regular work. In a clear manner, a reference book describes the current forestry structure, as well as felling standards and rules. It suggests possibilities of public participation in forest management in Russia. Greenpeace prepared standards for assessment of the less disturbed forest areas. These standards were published in a number of issues of the Forest Bulletin and were repeatedly discussed at conferences of environmental activists and forestry workers, including two conferences in 1998, devoted to problems of forest management and protection in Karelia and Sakhalin. Inventory of natural old growth forests and other valuable forest areas. Since 1996, Greenpeace in cooperation with the Biodiversity Conservation Center, the Socio-Ecological Union, and other NGOs carried out an inventory of ancient taiga areas in the European and Ural areas of Russia. The work was based on 1999–2000 space images of middle and high resolution. The work
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop included more than one hundred expeditions of NGOs; specialists of Moscow, Pushkin, Tambov, and other state universities; and reserve workers. The NGOs use updated sources of information on the condition of forestlands and more up-to-date technologies in comparison with the state nature resource departments. The inventory of ancient taiga areas all over Russia is now carried out within the project “The Forest Watch of Russia.” Russian research and production institutions, the technical center Skaneks, the International Institute of Forestry, and regional organizations, such as Altai-21 Century Foundation, Friends of Siberian Forests (Krasnoyarsk), and the Bureau of Regional Public Campaigns (Vladivostok) participate in the project. Undisturbed forest assessment criteria are used, research techniques are improved at model sites (usually they are reserves), and the basis for new reserves and national parks are developed. Identification Atlas of Taiga Plants of European Russia was published to assist field investigations. Monitoring protected territories to detect illegal logging and poaching. Since 1997, Greenpeace workers have actively participated in revisions of forest management and forest husbandry in several regions, such as Moscow Oblast, Leningrad Oblast, Sakhalin Oblast, Republic of Buryatia, and Primorye Territory. In a few regions, the revisions were informal without participation of state bodies. In Moscow and Leningrad Oblasts the revisions resulted in improvement of forest management and observance of current legislation. In Primorye Territory, a protest was carried out against the export to Japan of illegally cut timber, bought and “legalized” by official wood exporters. As a result, the business activity of some companies was suspended for some time. Unfortunately, the situation has now returned to the original pattern. Demonstrations to attract public attention are important for NGOs. For example, in Moscow Oblast illegal felling took place in the immediate vicinity of a forestry office, but forest guards never reacted to these acts. This action was described in the press and shown on TV. As a result, the Board of the Moscow Forest Department organized the Public Council of Forest Management to solve such problems. As a result of protests of NGOs, Scandinavian companies and Russian wood importers declared a moratorium on purchase of timber from forestlands in Karelia in 1997. Due to this moratorium, the most valuable remaining timber stands were saved in Kalevala Forestland, which is as an official reserve. At present, an advisory panel is discussing the future of these forestlands. Public participation in forest management. Opportunities for teamwork with local authorities in a few regions are wider than opportunities at the federal level. For example, for the last five years in Moscow Oblast reviews of environmental legislation compliance were carried out with participation of NGOs (in fact, the reviews were completed thanks to the efforts of the NGOs themselves). One such example is the “Summary of the
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop Results of the Interagency Commission on Assessing the Status of Forestry in Vyborg, Priozersk, and Vsevolozhsk Regions of Leningrad Oblast.” According to the results of the revisions, rather strong sanctions were often applied to law violations. For example, commercial “clear cutting” in strictly protected nature reserves practically stopped in Moscow Oblast. State ecological examinations are now carried out for projects of forest management and felling plans. “Hot” problems may be discussed with forest department officials. Nevertheless some problems remain. In August 2000, the state reserve Atleka in Vologda Oblast was established as a result of a discussion among representatives of local authorities, forest industry companies, NGOs, and the scientific community. It is the first case of a strictly protected national reserve established by a logging enterprise. The Vostochny Reserve in Sakhalin Oblast is one more example of constructive collaboration between public and State structures. Unfortunately, examples of similar understanding by the authorities of the actions and demands of the “greens” are still very rare and in the majority of regions completely absent. Educational activity, including education of members of environmental organizations and education of the general public. To improve professional qualifications of environmental organization members and forest officers, the Forest Club publishes the periodical Forest Bulletin as well as other materials, for example the book European Taiga on the Verge of the Millennium by A.Yu Yaroshenko. Booklets, calendars, and posters are published for the general public, such as the calendar for 1999 and a booklet devoted to Lake Baikal. Lobbying of nature protection initiatives and attraction of public attention to regional and federal ecological problems. Organizing support for an environmental referendum was a main activity in 2000. The current legislation requires two million signatures. More than 2.5 million signatures were collected, so the referendum depends on the Russian Government. It may avoid the referendum by declaring signatures to be “faulty” or “inaccurate.” RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PARTICIPATION OF NGOs IN ECOLOGICAL DECISION-MAKING It is necessary to develop a legislative mechanism providing for participation of NGOs in ecological decision-making. A way for information about government decrees and actions to reach NGOs and the general public is needed along with a way for ensuring responsiveness to suggestions from NGOs. Up to now, important decrees are usually prepared, unknown to the general public. Even if NGOs learn about a decree and put forward proposals, they are disregarded without discussion.
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The Role of Environmental NGOs: Russian Challenges American Lessons - Proceedings of a Workshop To solve these problems it is necessary: To distribute information for the general public about the substance of new draft laws and departmental and interdepartmental regulations if they are not connected with state secrets. The simplest way could be publishing the texts on the Internet and in the central mass media. The information should be published not less than a month before the date of their official consideration or, in the case of a federal law or interdepartmental standard, not less than three months before the date. To develop a way to ensure responsiveness to suggestions from the public on the substance of new laws and standards, natural resource policies, and other problems concerning interests of different population groups. An obligation of a reasonable answer on such proposals from the state bodies within a limited time period is important. To have a mechanism for monitoring ministries and departments that are active in environmental protection and natural resource use. In particular, regular restructuring of the departments in the regions with participation of public organizations in this restructuring is important. Public councils with participation of NGOs should be established and linked to federal ministries and departments and their regional divisions. Participation of fictitious “public” organizations should be avoided. To make obligatory the participation of interested NGOs in commissions of experts conducting federal and regional ecological examinations. It is necessary to publish information on projects and territories that have already undergone ecological examinations. To require public monitoring of large investment projects, including those with foreign investments. The easiest means of doing this appears to be the establishment of a public council for every project with participation of NGOs. The council must have access to non-commercial data concerning the projects and all information about the current legislation. To provide free access for the general public and NGOs to data concerning implementation of projects for use of natural resources and for environmental protection. It is necessary to remove unreasonable obstacles for access to ecological data, including costs, particularly if they are already paid from budgetary funds.
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